To many millenials, grime music began in 2014. Indeed, this was the year that Skepta’s ‘That’s Not Me’ went viral on YouTube, and Meridian Dan’s ‘German Whip’ became the highest charting grime single of all time at #13.
This year, JME’s Integrity peaked at 12th in the Albums Chart and Kanye West performed at The Brit Awards with Skepta, Fekky, Stormzy, Krept & Konan and Novelist. In short, grime has never enjoyed more popularity, among a diverse set of fans.
The crowd at the o2 Academy on Saturday was living proof of this fact. Grime, while beginning in East London over a decade ago, has migrated across the UK, and Oxford is only the first date of a tour across the entire country: a feat in itself for the genre. The room was full, and the crowd somewhat restless after waiting over 45 minutes for Skepta to perform. When he eventually did, however, he was greeted with a roar of excitement, as the first blips of ‘That’s Not Me’ initiated a spontaneous mosh pit and hundreds of flailing arms.
Skepta’s skill as an MC is in his hooks and his unique blend of lyrical originality and accessibility. That’s Not Me showcased this perfectly, as the crowd sang along to every single word. As probably his biggest hit, it was very strategically placed as a means of immediately raising the spirits of an impatient crowd; while Skepta’s incredible energy and presence lit up the stage from the get go.
Moving on, Skepta kept up the pace with songs from his excellent 2013 mixtape Blacklisted. The sharpness of the production on these songs came alive on stage, despite them being less recognisable as the opening track. Skepta interspersed these tracks with other well-known hits like Boy Better Know’s Too Many Man and his brother JME’s Man Don’t Care. While the cover of Too Many Man worked fantastically, Man Don’t Care – while in theory an admiral tribute to his brother JME- did not quite live up to the original. Rather, it was simply the original played on speakers, with Skepta shouting over the hook.
After 40 minutes, there was allegedly an official order for Skepta to stop playing, and the crowd suddenly became frustrated. ‘Shutdown!’ everyone screamed, a plea which Skepta delivered on. What ensued was easily the best track of the night, in terms of both audience participation and the sheer frenzy that the song generated. ‘Don’t know your songs but they know mine’, Skepta shouted. The claim was proven true: as 300 sweaty teenagers and 20-somethings in Nike baseball caps bellowed every line of the song back to him.
While ‘Shutdown’ was doubtless a fitting end to the set, there was a slight, though perceivable, sense of vexation among certain parts of the crowd who felt the set was too short. This was disappointing, though comprehensible considering it was the first of three gigs in the same night, with Skepta instantly driving off to Bournemouth then Bristol. To pay so much money for a ticket for 40 minutes of music, as fantastic as it was, left many feeling somewhat cheated. Skepta’s sets will no doubt benefit from the injection of new songs from his upcoming album Konnichawa, that will take grime further into the stratosphere. Until then, he will be shutting down venues across the UK: though hopefully for longer than 40 minutes.
Apology – The Oxford Student would like to apologise for the image mistake in our print version of the article this week. We noticed the issue just after going to print, when we weren’t able to make any changes and had already flagged it up to make an apology in the next issue. We had a last minute issue with the picture of Skepta we were going to put in that position, and ended up changing it. The image was incorrectly named in our files, and we failed to check it over before sending it off. We’d like to apologise for what was an unacceptable mistake, and the responsibility lies entirely with the editors (the author of the piece had no involvement with the image at all). Thank you for your understanding.